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Fishing Expedition

‘How about back there?’ Dylan asked, pointing towards what looked like a hidden creek. ‘I’ll bet they’re biting there.’

Eric looked in the direction Dylan was indicating. It did look like a deserted spot, just perfect for catching striped bass. ‘Let’s go,’ he said. He glanced down and mentally checked off the list of things the two men would need: bait, fishing tackle, safety equipment, snacks, and coffee. It was all there. Eric nodded, and Dylan started the boat’s motor.

Within a few minutes, Dylan and Eric had reached the mouth of the creek, one of many that opened into the Intercoastal Waterway. Dylan soon cut the engine, and the two men drifted slowly into the creek. As they went along, the tree cover over their heads got denser, and the air cooler and damper. Eric looked at the creek banks as they passed. They were practically deserted. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling they were being watched. ‘You think anyone lives out here?’ he asked Dylan.
‘I don’t see any houses or even cabins. Why?’
‘I don’t know. It just feels like someone’s there.’
‘You mean watching us?’ Dylan couldn’t help laughing. ‘What, was Deliverance on TV last night or something?’ He shook his head and Eric looked down at the water, a little embarrassed at letting a case of nerves get to him.

‘How about if we stop here,’ Eric said after a few minutes of silence. ‘It looks like as good a place as any.’
‘Fine with me. You get the bait going, and I’ll settle the boat.’
Within a few minutes, Dylan and Eric were casting their lines. Silence settled in, but the creek wasn’t really quiet. There was the soft swish of water lapping against the boat, and splashes as wood ducks and teals dove in to go after their prey. Every once in a while, toads croaked, and once or twice, a flock of pelicans went by in a rush of flapping wings. The creek wasn’t very far from where the two men were staying, but it felt like a real wilderness. The resort’s web pages had been right about it being ‘away from it all.’ Hopefully the web pages were also right about the fishing.

Dylan was just reaching up to slap at a bug on his neck when he felt a hard tug on his line. ‘I got one!’ he called. ‘And it feels like a big one, too!’ He slowly reeled his fishing line in, with Eric eagerly watching over his shoulder. All of a sudden, both men stiffened. Eric gulped hard and Dylan said, ‘Oh, my God,’ as water gushed from the arm that had been caught on the fishing hook.
‘We need to call the cops or something,’ Eric said. Dylan nodded. ‘You’re right. I’ll keep an eye on it – him – while you call, OK?’ A minute later, Eric had gotten through on the emergency number, and was told to wait where he was until the police arrived.

After about ten minutes, Dylan and Eric could hear the blast of a siren. ‘Thank God,’ Dylan said. ‘I don’t want to be cooped up with a dead body any longer than we have to be.’

Within a half hour, police officers had cordoned off the part of the creek where Dylan and Eric had found the body. The men had had to give up their boat and equipment as evidence while the police determined what happened. Now, they were seated in the police station, answering questions.
‘This shouldn’t take too long,’ the officer – he’d said his name was McCabe – told them. ‘I just need you to tell me what happened.’
‘It’s like I said,’ Eric responded. ‘We were fishing, trying get some bass, and Dylan’s line got caught on him – on the body.’
Dylan nodded. ‘We’d only been there twenty minutes or so when it happened. For sure less than half an hour.’
McCabe nodded and made notes. ‘All right. Now, you two gentlemen don’t live locally, do you?’
‘No,’ Dylan said. ‘We’re just here for the week.’
‘That’s right,’ Eric added. ‘We’re thinking of buying here, and wanted to visit for a bit before making a decision.’
‘That so?‘ McCabe looked up and met both men’s eyes with his own. ‘Where are you staying?’
‘The Villages at West Palm Beach,’ Dylan answered.
McCabe nodded slowly. ‘All right, you two make yourselves comfortable. I’ll be back in just a minute.’

Dylan and Eric tried to relax, but an interview room at a police station isn’t exactly comfortable. A minute turned into five, then to fifteen, then to twenty. Finally, Dylan said, ‘You think we should go? It’s not like we did anything.’
‘No, but it won’t look good if we go.’
‘Yeah, you’re right.’
After five more long minutes, McCabe came back into the room. ‘I’m going to have to ask you a few more questions.’
‘But we don’t know anything more than we’ve said,’ Dylan insisted.
‘See, that’s the thing,’ McCabe said slowly. ‘You two were in the boat, A man’s body’s found right where you were. That interests me.’
‘But we reported the body!’ Eric protested.
‘Wouldn’t be the first time that kind of thing happened.’
‘So, what? Are we under arrest?’ Dylan burst out.
‘Well, you certainly have some questions to answer. You might want to get yourselves real comfortable. It’s going to be a long night.’

And it was. McCabe kept asking questions, and Dylan and Eric kept insisting they didn’t know anything about the dead man. It was nearly dawn before they were finally released. They went back to the resort, slept for a few hours, and then packed and left. Then, both of them let loose on social media, warning prospectives not to consider the Villages at West Palm Beach.

McCabe was glad when he read their reviews. He and some of the local residents had been at war with Villages ever since that asshole hedge fund manager had bought the land and built the resort. It was nothing but trouble – all the crowds, bad drivers, and rude, loud residents. The more people stayed away from it the better. He wouldn’t have minded using those men as patsies, though. He’d had to hide Shep’s body in a better place. Oh, well, nobody but alligators would find it now. If only McCabe’s brother hadn’t gotten in that bar fight with Shep. What was he supposed to do, though? You had to take care of family.


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Crime Fiction News Break


Links You’ll Want

Unseemly Honeymoon 

K.B. Owen

Wishing Caswell Dead

Patricia Stoltey

I’ll Keep You Safe

Peter May

Crime Fiction Prompts For Writing Workshop

Vera, Series 8


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Lifestyles ;-)

As the old saying goes, there’s no place like home. And thinking about home puts me in mind of…


…a quiz! Well, don’t blame me if you’re not prepared! 😉

A person’s home or office can tell a lot about that person’s character. And, as a dedicated crime fiction, you know all of the places where fictional sleuths live or work, don’t you? Or do you? Take this handy quiz and find out. Match each fictional sleuth with the place he or she lives or works.

Ready? Knock on the door to begin…if you dare! 😉


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You Come From My Inkwell*

Thanks for stopping by! If you were expecting one of my usual blatherings about crime fiction, you’ll want to head along to your next blog stop. This post isn’t going to be about examples from the genre. It’s going to be about my own writing.

Still here? Thank you, and you’ve been warned! The other day, Brad at ahsweetmysteryblog posted a very interesting discussion of the role of the sleuth in crime fiction. G’wan, read the post. It’s a really fascinating exploration of the impact that the sleuth has on a crime novel, and vice versa.

Back now? Thanks! See? Wasn’t it interesting? In the comments, Brad was kind enough to ask me a few questions about my own police detective-turned-professor, Joel Williams. I didn’t want to clutter up his comments section – the discussion he was hosting was far too fascinating for that. But I was truly flattered that he asked me to talk about Williams.

So…I decided to answer Brad’s questions here.

Here you go, Brad!


How was your development of protagonist affected by the idea of a series, AND vice versa?

One way that the concept of a series really impacted Joel Williams was in his career. I wanted him to be in US higher education because that’s a field I think I understand; it’s where my own experience lies. And, since there’s such a diversity of people and issues in universities, I thought it might make for an effective context for a series – I didn’t want my stories to get too ‘samey.’  So, I decided that I would build a university-based series. The thing is, though, that police (except for campus police, of course) aren’t really woven into the social fabric of a lot of university campuses. So, I knew that I didn’t want my protagonist to be an active police officer. That’s why he developed as a professor. And he’s being affected by the fact that I want the series to continue. That plan gives me all sorts of opportunities to explore some changes that are happening on campuses, and to trace his career as a professor.

And that career is an important way that he can impact the series. I don’t have everything mapped out, but professors’ careers do change over time. That gives me plenty of possibilities when it comes to roles he plays in novels, things he does, and so on.


Do you see yourself ever getting tired of the guy, even if he isn’t a fantastical character, like Poirot or Wimsey, but more of a real-life person?

The fact that he’s a real-life person is exactly why I don’t see myself getting tired of him, at least not at this point. Much as I love Christie’s Poirot stories (and I do!), and much as I love Dorothy L. Sayers’ Wimsey novels (and I do – especially the ones with Harriet Vane), those lead characters have a lot of eccentricities and are, as you say, fantastical. Real people are more multidimensional, if that’s the best word. I wanted my protagonist to be someone that I (and readers) could identify with, maybe even imagine meeting. That gives me room to see how Williams’ character develops, so that he won’t become too boring or tiresome.

That said, it doesn’t mean I’m not writing about other main characters. I am, as it happens. At some point, every series ends, even the good ones (maybe especially the good ones). That will happen to the Joel Williams series, too. So, I’m also doing a couple of (for the moment) standalones that could expand into series.


Without giving away any guarded secrets, do you see changes in the wind for Joel, and if so, are these ideas you have always had, or do they come up as stories develop!

There are always changes in people’s lives, so, yes, I envision changes in Williams’ life. In fact, in the novel I’m revising now, there’s an important change in the works in the School of Social Sciences (where his Department of Criminal Justice is housed). You told me not to give away guarded secrets, so no big reveals here. But it will be contentious, and it will impact what he does.

I also see changes coming as Williams’ personal life goes on. Oh, not the ‘dysfunctional detective who destroys his marriage, goes in and out of rehab, etc..’ sorts of changes. But things do happen as people move on in life. Even healthy, happy marriages change over time. Friends pass on, new friends make the scene, colleagues come and go, there can be health issues, and so on. To me, this is part of what it means to be a real person. And, as I said, I wanted my protagonist to be realistic.

You ask an interesting question about whether I plan out those new developments, or do they come up as I write. The answer is, honestly, a little of each. Some of them happen as I put together a plot. For example, Williams acquires a dog at the end of Publish or Perish because of the murder (that’s the main plot) of its former owner. I see other changes as story arcs that happen over time. For instance, Williams will move along in his career, and I’m thinking about how that will impact him. That’s what I mean by ‘a little of both.’

Thanks so much, Brad, for asking about Joel. He appreciates it very much, too!


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Cy Coleman and David Zippel’s You’re Nothing Without Me.


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Flight Plan

Heather watched as the passengers shuffled into the economy cabin. She usually did the first or business class cabins, but today, she was working economy. After innumerable repetitions of ‘Please take your seat, so that we can be ready for departure,’ ‘Please swing your bag around so that the wheels face out,’ and ‘Let’s stow that under the seat in front of you,’ she and her flight partner, Roy, had the cabin prepped. At least Heather could take a break for a few minutes during the safety demonstration video. On smaller flights, she or her partner did the demo, but not on longer flights like this one. As the safety video started, Heather reviewed her plan. She went over each step in her mind, but she couldn’t come up with any problems. She’d even specifically requested the economy cabin, so Brandon wouldn’t see her. He wouldn’t fly economy if his life depended on it.

Brandon glanced over at Melissa, who was trying to be cool, but who couldn’t help looking around at the first-class comforts.
‘Get used to it,’ he murmured to her. ‘This is how you’ll be living from now on.’
Melissa smiled at him a little shyly. She hadn’t wanted him to catch her being unsophisticated. ‘It’s all amazing,’ she whispered. ‘I can’t believe we’re actually going to be married by the end of this week.’ She was still getting used to the idea that a bluebood with a 7-figure trust fund salary would be interested in her.
‘Well, believe it. I love you, and I can’t wait to shout it to the world.’ Brandon stroked the back of her head, and Melissa leaned back against his hand. It was a like a dream come true.

About an hour into the flight, Heather peeked through the curtains that separated the first-class cabin from the rest of the flight. There he was, the skunk. And there was his little plaything, too. Melissa, her name was. Brandon had had other toys since the divorce, but this bitch meant business. She was about to marry Brandon, and that would ruin everything. No trust fund payout, no nothing. Once she got her claws into him, Heather wouldn’t see a penny. Well, that was not about to happen. Not after what she’d put up with during their marriage. She almost felt sorry for Melissa, really. That girl had no idea what a snake pit was waiting for her. Heather was a little surprised that Brandon was going through with the wedding, but, hey, maybe Melissa provided a lot of interesting ‘extra service.’

Heather took a deep breath and started to put her plan into action. She signaled to Bethany, who was working the first-class cabin. When Bethany joined her, Heather said, ‘Any early requests for wine? I can get them from the back while you do the cheese and crackers. Then we won’t bump into each other.’
‘Oh, thanks! That’d be great! 3B wants a Riesling and 3D wants a Pinot Gris.’ Bethany was still fairly new, and Heather guessed she’d be glad for any support she got.
‘Got it. A Riesling and a Pinot Gris.’

She walked back to the galley and glanced around to be sure she was alone. Then, she quickly pulled a small packet out of her pocket. She poured two glasses of wine and put the contents of the packet into one of them. It was perfect. Brandon would drink the last wine of his life, and Melissa would go to jail for it. What a honeymoon!

Now for the second part of the plan. Heather set the glasses on a small tray covered with a cloth. She tossed a couple of chocolates on the tray, too. Then, she walked up the aisle through the economy cabin. She tried not to notice the stares of resentment and jealousy as those passengers got a glimpse of first-class treatment. When she got to the curtain, she signaled to Bethany, who walked back and picked up the tray with whispered thanks and a smile.

As Heather turned to head back to the rear of the plane, she could hear Bethany saying, ‘Here’s your Pinot Gris,’ and a second later, ‘A Riesling for you, sir.’ Ha! Brandon never had met a Riesling he didn’t like. Wait! Was that Brandon’s voice thanking Bethany? Didn’t sound like it, but her ears were probably playing tricks on her. Everything else went smoothly. The next few hours passed by uneventfully, thank God.

In the first-class cabin, Ken Weirton shifted uncomfortably in his set. Then he shifted again. ‘You OK?’ his wife, Summer, asked.
‘I don’t know what it is,’ he said. ‘I don’t feel well all of a sudden. Maybe it was something I ate.’
‘You want an antacid or something?’
‘No, we land in an hour and a half. I’ll just try to sleep.’

It didn’t help. As time went by, Ken felt worse and worse. He was finding it difficult to breathe, and his stomach felt upset. By this time, Summer was really concerned. She pushed the call button, and in a minute, Bethany was at her side.
‘Can I get you something?’ she asked.
‘It’s my husband,’ Summer said. ‘I think he’s ill. We’re not sure what it is.’
‘All right, let’s try to make him comfortable, and I’ll let the captain know. We’ll be landing in less than an hour, and we can have a medical team meet us if we need to.’
The next few minutes were a blur of activity as Bethany worked to settle Ken in as comfortable a position as possible. After a short time, he did seem better, and she was hoping that he’d be all right until they could get him some medical help when they arrived.

Heather smiled to herself a little as the pilot announced a slight delay when they landed. She could imagine why. The ambulance, the stretcher, the whole thing. She almost wished she could see Melissa’s face when the police started asking questions. When they finally got clearance to de-plane, Heather went up to the front to stand next to Bethany.
‘What was that all about?’ she asked with what she hoped was an innocent face.
‘Oh, I feel awful about it!’ Bethany said. ‘Mr. Weirton – he was in 3D – is really ill. I hope it’s not anything he ate or drank on the plane.’
‘I wouldn’t worry,’ Heather reassured her. ‘He ate the same food as other people, didn’t he?’
‘Yes. I mean he had a Riesling, and other people had different kinds of wine, but nobody else got sick from the food.’
‘A Riesling?’
‘Yes. Oh, no! I was supposed to give him the Pinot Gris! I mixed up the wines! I hope I didn’t do anything seriously wrong.’
Heather’s face went pale. ‘I don’t think you did anything,’ she said.

Brandon and Melissa stood together in front of the Arrivals/Departures board, looking for their connecting flight.
‘There it is,’ he said, pointing. ‘We’ve got two hours. You want to go to the VIP lounge for a while?’
Melissa smiled. ‘I’d love to,’ she said. Brandon smiled back. The right moment hadn’t come during the flight. Or perhaps he was being too cautious. But it wouldn’t matter. He and Melissa would be together for the next three weeks. There’d be any number of chances to take care of her. No way he’d let her touch his money.


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